Mark the day. Sunday 27 September 2020. That was the day I started to ride away from the house for a cycle round Renfrewshire and, before I got a mile away I turned round, rode home and picked up full length gloves and an extra jacket. Brrrrrr. It’s getting cold!
Now the cold should be good training for Celtman but I can see from my training this month that I’m starting to do more indoor rides rather than heading outside. I think October will see that accelerate along with the last of any serious swims (anything longer than 10 mins!).
The water temperature is falling too. I didn’t think of starting a swim in skins this month but I did manage to finish a few swims with a five minute dip without a wetsuit at the end of a swim. I then spent the rest of the night trying to warm up. Baby, it’s cold outside… and in the water.
The Laig Ghru route (not race) start in Linn of Dee and ends in Coylumbridge. As you can see on the map, the route doesn’t pass many shops. A shop is the most important thing I look for when doing a long run. I never know when I might want a Twix.
I packed a Twix in my backpack…and a second Twix just in case one wasn’t enough.
The first part of the run was relatively straightforward but there was one river crossing. The water was quite deep so I took my shoes off and waded it through it bare foot. I’d rather put wet feet into dry shoes than get my shoes and feet wet.
There was a bothy about half way along the route. I thought they were all closed due to CoVid but the door was wide open. I was wet and cold so I quite happily took the opportunity to dry off for 10 minutes and eat my Twix.
It was wet when I left but I was hopeful the sun would come out once we got to the Aviemore side.
I wish I could say the views in the valley are amazing but it was so wet and grey their wasn’t much to see.
Towards the top of the route I came to the boulder fields. This is a 1KM section of fallen rocks. It’s very easy to navigate. Just keep going straight along the valley. None of the boulders are big but you hurt yourself if you trip.
The sun came out as I reached the Aviemore side. It’s much easier to run this part. The paths is better and it’s all downhill.
I was told this part was the most beautiful section and it is… for a little while. I can only run through a beautiful forest for so long before I start thinking – will this forest ever end? I’d like to see something else other than trees!
The last section is along the road into Aviemore to the Police Station. Which is not the most scenic finish in the world. Unless you like 1980’s style office block.
That wasn’t the true finish. I then had to walk half a mile to get the car. When I reached it my watch said Id done 49.9KM. I was so tired I didn’t bother doing the extra .1 to get to 50K.
Due to lockdown restrictions I haven’t been to to a pub since March. Is there a better time to return to a bar than the night before a marathon? I didn’t think so the night before the run I treated myself to a couple of pints.
I enjoyed my drinks and ordered some food to go with it. The food was slow to arrive, it was overpriced but it was absolutely delicious! It was the first dinner I’ve had in six months which was not cooked by either myself or my wife. I could have been served cat food and I would still have found it delicious just because it was a change from what I’ve been having for months on end.
The forecast for the run was sunshine. Which meant it was unsurprisingly raining when I woke up.
The start of the run is the old police station in Braemar. I didn’t realise there was an old station so I started at the nice new modern one.
The plan was to run the first 10K to Linn of Dee where I would meet some friends.
Normally I would run with two 500ml plastic water pouches but I’d forgotten to take them with me so I improvised and bough some capri-sun orange pouches. The pouches fitted easily into my backpack and I thought they would collapse to a small size once empty.
What I didn’t realize is that the straw in the pouch is very sharp. A pouch with a straw bounces around whilst running. A sharp straw easily punctures bouncing pouches. Within a couple of hundred metres I had orange juice pouring out my backpack. Oh well, the plan was good in theory!
The first 10K was relatively easy. It was initially on the road and then I cut through Mar Lodge estate.
The building is the third lodge on the estate. The first Mar Lodge was damaged in a flood. the second was was destroyed by fire and even the current one was damaged by a fire.
If that happened to my house. I’d take the hint and move somewhere else.
It was only once I got to Linn of Dee that the run started to get a bit harder…
The towel is not something we spend a lot of time thinking about. We mostly take them for granted – until we forget to bring one to the shower, or, worse, a loch after swimming outside.
There is nothing worse than coming out of a loch, looking in your bad and finding nothing to dry yourself except the t-shirt and jumper you were going to use to keep warm.
That’s why it’s important to dress right for swimming outdoors and there is no way you can go wrong if you wear a dryrobe.
Now some folk have fancy dryrobe’s with a waterproof outer shell and a nice soft inner lining to keep you dry and warm. I however have no time for such luxuries. If you want to wear a towel then wear a towel, like the one above.
It’s still a dry robe, for that all important branding when lochside, but it is nothing more than a towel stitched to another towel with an added hood and arm holes.
It’s brilliant. (And cheap).
Once you get out of your wetsuit you can use all of your new towel robe to dry every single bit of you just by rubbing yourself all over. It’s actually better than a towel because, while wearing it, you can feel it rub against all the bits you can’t normally reach if you had a towel. Between the shoulder blades? No problem. Just sit in your car with your towel robe on and rub your back against the back of the seat. It’s brilliant, and despised.
I will admit that it’s not the fashionable item. In fact it’s banned in my house as, when my wife sees it hanging up, she does threaten to burn it on the basis that it is a crime against fashion. But it’s not meant to be fashionable. Just look at the photo above. No one is going to go out on a Saturday night to a fancy restaurant in a towel robe. But it is practical and effective and I would recommend it to all budding open water swimmers… and to monks who want to keep warm.
However, despite my wife’s claim that it is not fashionable, I would beg to differ. Maybe it’s too fashionable?
Hear me out: perhaps the highest praise for the towel robe is the fact that it is so ingenious and forward thinking an item that it’s not even listed in Wikipedia as a form of towel. Check it out. Here’s the entry: Towel but, under types of towels, there is not one mention of it as an item of clothing. So, there you go, a towelrobe is so fashionable that it’s not even mentioned on the website which knows everything.
So, get ahead of the public, get ahead of the fashion pack, next time you’re at a loch, or being dined out at Gordon Ramsay michelin starred restaurants, why not wear a towel?
Wanlockhead is Scotland’s highest village. The area has Scotland’s highest hotel, Scotland’s highest pub, Scotland’s highest…you get the idea. The pub should sell its beer with the tagline “beer with altitude”
Above Wanlokhead there is a prominent golf-ball like structure on the summit of Lowther Hil. It is a radar station used by NATS (National Air Traffic Services).
The radar is known locally as “The Golf Ball” due to the ball shaped covering that protects the large rotating radar dish inside from wind and ice. It sits on a tee-like concrete structure.
I first attempted the climb in 2008. It was supposed to be the finish line of a bike sportive but the weather was so bad the road to the top was closed. Since then I’ve done it regulalry as a race against my brother. We call it the Tour De Golf Ball.
Check out the video to see what the route looks like
Here’s some images from the route
Rating: 5 out of 5.
It can be brutal on a bad weather day. I wouldn’t advise doing it if its windy. The climb is 2.6miles long and there are a number of steep sections.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Great views across the Lowther hills On a clear day you can see for miles around.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Its normally a quiet road and I hardly see a car but this time (Sep 2020) it was a a bit busier. I’m assuming more people are visiting now that lockdown has eased.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
There is a big area to park on the edge of Wanlokhead. Don’t park in the Lead mining museum. That’s for people visiting the museum.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
There are toilets in the Museum but they were closed when I visited. Usually they are open and available
Rating: 1 out of 5.
No Café stops on the route as Drumlanrig castle is currently closed to visitors. Normally you could stop there for a snack. They used to do excellent Scones.
The Callanish Stones are the second most famous stones in the UK after the prehistoric Stonehenge and, of course, the far older stones of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
I was home for the weekend in Stornoway and and decided to see if there was now a tourist friendly route to cycle in Stornoway. Over the last few years the island has become more of a tourist attraction with cafes popping up in villages that previously only saw food when the weekly grocer’s van popper round.
I started the ride by heading north west in an anti-clockwise route but only because the wind was coming from the south west and I wanted it behind me when I finished. part from that the ride can be done in either direction.
First up (1), on the tourist trail is the Arnol blockhouse, a tradtional croft restored and rebuilt. But, ignore that and look in the field next door where you can find the local bus.
Next up (2), you have the Broch, an ancient stone keep/castle/no one is quite sure what it for. My dad always used to say there was a secret tunnel which led out of the Broch so the clans could escape. When we were young we would spend hours looking for the tunnel until, a few years later, when we were older, he admitted there was no tunnel because “why would they have a tunnel which the enemy could enter and bypass the walls?”. We said “what about Star Wars and the Death Star, that had a tunnel?” because, when you are 10, history and science fiction are exactly the same thing.
After the Broch, head to the Callanish Stones (3) and the 15% climb to get up to it. Thankfully the climb is less than 20 metres.
(The Callanish Stones are, of course, not as good as the Calla Stones because the Callanish Stones are only Callan-ish…)
The stones are fantastic and only ruined by the fact that they are completely pointless. No one knows what they are or what they do or why they are there. It’s a mystery and one that I have to say I SOLVED!
Yes, I know what the Callanish Stones are for because, earlier in the ride I passed another stone and it had a sign beside it.
And I can’t believe that no one has put two and two together and realised that if that one stone can be a scratching stone then the Callanish Stones must have been a pre-historic cat sanctuary and they needed lots of stones for cats to scratch. I will write to Tony Robinson and get Time Team on the case!
The final stretch (4) is the old road from Stornoway. Don’t carry onto the main road as it’s usually busy with people driving to town and there’s nothing particularly scenic to cut straight up. Instead the back road leads you up to the top of the moor and, in the summer, you’ll find people cutting peat.
Overall, there’s not many hills but it is a very choppy route. There’s some great views of both the Hebridean moor and the North Atlantic when you get to the west coast.
The Lairig Ghru race route is 43 kilometres through the Cairngorms, from Braemar police station to Aviemore police station. The race has been held annually for over 40 years.
This year the race took place on Sunday 6th Septemeber. I ran it the day before, which confused one man, who was dues to race it, and when I told him I was running it on the Saturday he said:
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I replied, “I’m definitely doing it on Saturday.”
“Oh God! I thought it was the Sunday. I’ve booked the wrong day!” He panicked.
He thought I was doing the race too. He was very relieved when I told him I was just running it for fun the day before the race.
I judge the posh-ness of a town by how many black Range Rovers are parked at the town’s supermarket. There was about 20 parked outside Braemar Co-Op but the drivers weren’t shoppers looking for a bargain. They were staying at the hotel next door – The Fife Arms ( https://thefifearms.com/) One of Scotland’s most opulent hotels.
The cheapest room is £400 a night. They look nice though. Definitely a step up from a Travel Lodge
I didn’t stay there. I stayed at a local B+B http://www.cranfordbraemar.co.uk/. It was great. The room was quiet and the owners were friendly. They served up a great breakfast.
A town must be posh when the answer to the question: “Have you had any covid cases here?” is “none in Braemar but there was one down the road in Balmoral – Prince Charles!”
At town is posh when your neighbours are the Royal Family.
I’ve covered the White Loch before – see here – but as you’ll see, if you look back, it was less a review and more of a complaint about the weather. So, having been back a number of times, here’s the updated review….
Which is Glaswegian for really, really, unbelievably busy.
The White Loch is about five minutes drive from the southern edge of Newton Mearns and around 20 minutes drive from Shawlands. It is therefore within easy distance of around 200,000 people, all of whom are looking for somewhere to swim, which is great but… there will be times when you arrive and you’ll struggle to park. For parking see the previous review.
There is an ‘overflow’ car park. A gate across the road from the parking space at the start of the loch but be careful to close it behind you when you leave. I’m told the landowner is happy for it to be used by swimmers but he doesn’t want it left open and open to abuse by fly tippers. So, if you use it, make sure to close it.
You might feel a slight sliminess after you swim but according to swim forums on Facebook that is due to peat and nothing to be alarmed about even if you might feel like the Creature of the White Loch Lagoon when you come out of the water.
Excellent location for different lenghts of swims. If you just want a dip then a paddle round the entrance is nice and shallow. If you want to complete a full lap then it will be around 1000 – 1200 metres. You can aim for the opposite bank at 4, then a bright and obvious life buoy post at 2 then a wind turbine at 3 before coming back to the start.
I’m told that some people experience a slight pull in the water around the dam at 1 so keep away from it.
At least one person every time I’ve been. If it’s been sunny then I’ve seen 10 people here, including swimmers, paddle boarders, a canoe – and one dog swimming laps after it’s owner. It’s a busy place so…
Avoid. I want to swim here and find a car parking spot so don’t swim here too! 🙂
The Lairig Ghru is one of the best-known mountain passes in Scotland. The only pass I’m familiar with is a bus pass. So I must admit I wasn’t aware of the Lairig Ghru until a couple of years ago. It featured on the BBC’s The Adventure Show.
The show covered the Lairig Ghru race. A mainly off road run which goes from the police station in Braemar to the police Station in Aviemore via the Lairig Ghru pass.
The race has been run annually for 40+ years but I can’t find any info on why the race starts and ends at a police station. Maybe race rules were officiated more strictly in those days.
The official route begins at the site of the old police station in Braemar. I got that slightly wrong. I started at the new police station. Thankfully, it only added on an extra 400m of running.
You can see what the route is like in the video below.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
An interesting route. Varied running surfaces but it is very,very long so its not going to suit most people. The weather wasn’t great when i did it so I missed out on seeing some of the amazing scenery at its best.
Rating: 1 out of 5.
Logistically the run is a pain in the a$%e! I had to leave a car in Aviemore the day before the run, get a lift to Braemar (a 90 min journey). I then stayed in Braemar overnight before running the race and then driving back to Braemar to get my stuff.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
There is a bothy half way along the route. There are streams to get water but don’t expect to get any provisions until you are back in Aviemore.
During Lockdown my employer made Friday’s a rest day. The idea being that having one day off a week during a pandemic is good for the mental well being and happiness of staff.
It was a great idea. I back any idea which means I work less but get paid the same! I’m not sure it was such a good idea for my productivity….
I used my Friday freedom to explore my local hills. I discovered miles of routes I’d never been on before. I wondered if it was possible to link up the best routes to make an interesting challenge. I mapped it out and the distance was 26 miles. Perfect for a marathon. Once I knew that I had to run it!
As the run is self supported I made it a figure of eight loop. This meant I could return to my car at the half way point and refuel and resupply.
The first loop of cort-ma-law is the easier loop. Its is very runnable and easy to work out a track. The second loop is harder at the beginning. The climb of Finglen is not on a clear track and encompasses a fair section of bog and heather.
The video will show you what to expect bu I don’t want to give a big description of the rout. The joy I had in running it was discovering new places. Hopefully if you try it you’ll get that thrill too.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Its my own race so of course I’d rate it 5 stars!
Rating: 4 out of 5.
There is a car park in Clachan of Campsie.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
There is a cafe next to the car park and there are pay toilets.